Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

April 2010

MusicFriday, April 30th, 2010, (3:30 pm)

Many of you won’t have heard of the band Parachutes from Reykjavik, Iceland. However some of you may have heard of Sigur Rós, also from Iceland, and if you like them then I have a free music download I think you might enjoy.

Free Music downloads

Parachutes musical style is deeply mellow to the point of being almost melancholy at times. You might imagine their music playing as the soundtrack to some subtitled independent art film in which the actors never smile and smoke way too much.

They are, or rather they were, a nine member band from Iceland formed by an American musician by the name of Alex Somers. They recorded two albums and one EP and commonly experimented using household objects as instruments.

The albums are titled “Parachutes” and “Susy.” The three track EP, which is also in the free download, is called “Tree Roots” and is mixed by Jónsi of Sigur Rós. Download them here.

To get a sense of what they sound like check out videos of the band performing in Alex Somers’ living room and the sample track below.

If you download the music I would be interested to hear what you thought of it.

Parachutes : Your Stories (From the “Tree Roots” EP)

Download Parachute’s collection here
Icelandic emo’s anonymous meeting
Sigur Rós
Free Coldplay live album

PoliticalTuesday, April 27th, 2010, (7:28 pm)

We have a general election here in the UK in just over a week I’m not really very excited about it. In fact I am not really very interested in it at all! So I wonder, am I too comfortable, too lazy, or is modern British politics just plain boring?

I honestly have no idea who to vote for on May 6th. I don’t like any of the parties because I simply don’t trust suit wearing, smugly smiling, hand shaking, baby holding, campaign stomping politicians. Underneath their party colors they’re all much the same if you ask me.

By the very nature politicians play political games. They look after themselves first, the people who keep them in power second, then somewhere after all of their other interests and activities they might look out for the interests of the people.

The recent parliamentary expenses scandals were of no real surprise. I wasn’t shocked to find out that political figures do questionable things and take advantage of their privileged positions.

In all honesty I almost don’t blame the politicians for taking advantage of the expenses system in the way they did. I can’t criticize them that harshly because I suspect that if I were in the same position as they were I might very well have been guilty of similar questionable application of the rules. Maybe that doesn’t reflect well on me, but I’m not perfect and I don’t expect politicians to be perfect either.

I suppose that’s the thing really. I’ve lost faith in political figures because I don’t really relate to their political personas. I’m tired of the carefully crafted statements and the overly wordy noise pollution they give off when saying nothing at all. They just don’t seem that real. They’re just part of a big ugly machine called government that moves slowly and often in the wrong direction.

Maybe I should be paying closer attention. Maybe I should have watched the three party leaders in their recent television debates. But frankly, I have better things to spend my time on than listening to three boring men argue with one another over stuff that will make very little real difference.

If I’ve got that wrong, please tell me. I’m serious, if you think there is something important I should know then I really would appreciate your insight. Because from where I am sitting I think we’re basically a wealthy country gripped by the same problems all wealthy countries have. Our liberty is being encroached upon by an increasingly intrusive security state that is happy most people mistake consumerism for freedom.

I’ve got my ‘hot button’ issues that I feel strongly about, but none of the ‘big three’ political parties are particularly talking about them because evidently they’re not considered that ‘hot’ to the rest of the country.

So help me out; is this really a boring election where we’re all just going to vote the current lot out with more conviction than we vote another lot in? Help me please, the election is just days away and in the absence of a ‘none of the above’ option I don’t know what box to cross on voting day.

GeneralWednesday, April 14th, 2010, (12:42 am)

My friend Romy is a colorful character, she’s the kind of person a lot of people probably wish they could be like. Energetic, accomplished, and well travelled, Romy is a pleasure to spend time with. So when she invited me to join her and her friends in celebrating her 60th birthday I was delighted to accept.

Perhaps I should have known it wouldn’t be like any other party I’ve been to. The celebrations were to run over the entire weekend, and people had quite literally come from all over the world to her home in the depths of the rolling hills of mid Wales.

Romy ShoveltonI hadn’t really examined Romy’s detailed email invitation after my friend Jeffrey had offered to share his guest house room with me in the nearby Welsh village of Carno. Jeffrey is an organised fellow (famous for being “Jeffrey Hyman, founder of Pret A Manger“) who often works to a meticulous plan, so I relied on my assumption that he would know everything that was required for the weekend. Such a haphazard and cavalier approach to the weekend might be seen as somewhat wreckless by some, but in truth I think it made the unfolding wonder of the events that much more enjoyable for me (thank you Jeffrey!).

On Saturday, at Romy’s secluded country cottage, people began to arrive for “brunch and bubbly.” After a while, in a party of some fifty or so people, we were taken in two buses to catch a historic steam train on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway.

Under a clear blue springtime sun the narrow gauge steam train threaded its way through lush green fields full of sheep and lambs on a 16 mile ride that felt just wonderfully British. Along the way strangers who all knew Romy were in turn getting to known one another, chatting as the train gently trundled along the tracks.

At the end of the line we were met by a historic bus and coach that took us to Powis Castle where some of us were taken on a guided tour of the castles famous gardens, while others relaxed in the grounds and took Camel rides that Romy had organised for the day.

Eventually we all gathered on the castle lawn to present Romy with her birthday cake and sing happy Birthday to her before taking afternoon tea in the castle. (I swear, I’m not making this up!)

That evening Romy threw an Arabian themed dress-up party complete with a bedhouin feast, performing musicians, a magician, and dancing. I’m not sure of the exact number of people but there must have been over 100 people there. Just as had happened throughout the day everyone asked the same three questions upon meeting somebody new. “Who are you?” “How do you know Romy?” And “What do you do?”

It was a pure delight meeting Romy’s impressive assortment of friends ranging from the serious down-to-business types, to the outright hippy-dippies who presumably beamed in from the 1970’s. It was nothing like I imagined a 60th birthday part would be like as people of all ages partied, ate, drank and danced into the small hours.

The next day guests returned to Romy’s cottage for camel racing! Romy has a love of Camels and had brought in Camel racers to entertain guests while we stood around chatting in the glorious spring weather. As the day went on people began departing in dribs and drabs, reluctant I think to leave such a wonderful atmosphere and unforgettable event.

Jeffrey and I eventually left, deciding to head out into the Welsh countryside in my open top MG. I know he especially enjoys the escape from his busy London life and I don’t need much of an excuse to put the roof down and drive on the winding welsh roads. We slowly made our way to the coast before eventually stopping at a pub for hearty and generous dinner.

As Monday morning came around and the masses returned to work, Jeffrey and I ate breakfast at the guesthouse in Carno. Laughing loudly about our ability to talk utter nonsense we enjoyed a relaxing morning in no particular hurry to get back home. Eventually we packed up our things, said goodbye to one another and headed out.

Once again the weather was spectacular so I decided to take the scenic way home. This entailed the simple tactic of just keeping the sun to my back and heading north in the knowledge that I couldn’t really get that lost, though I could enjoy feeling so. Each time I saw a narrow road going in roughly the direction I wanted to go in, I took it. They curved and wound their way through country scenes that looked like paintings and villages with impossible sounding names like Llanfihangel-yng-ngwynfa and Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.

Lake Vrynwy in Wales

I could have taken the main roads and been home in under two hours, but just look at what I would have missed. A visit to the stillness of Lake Vyrnwy with it’s castle like tower that reaches out into the still waters. The lanes lined with daffodils trumpeting the arrival of Spring. And the towering mist filled forests more magnificent and stirring than even the most awe-inspiring cathedral.

In the end it took seven hours to eventually get home, but that was just about the most perfect way to end a most perfect weekend.

Thank you very much to Romy for her staggering generosity at laying on such an elaborate and grand weekend of celebrations. And thanks also to my friend Jeffrey for his generosity in sharing his guesthouse.

To breakfast and beyond
As the summer fades (Pt 1)
A weekend at Romy’s
If this place were home
Pictures from another world (Pt 1)

MusicFriday, April 9th, 2010, (12:00 pm)

It’s Friday, the working week is reaching another conclusion, so let me encourage you to take three minutes and twelve seconds out of your day to watch the video below. Trust me, this is worth it, and who among us really can’t take three minutes out of our day, right? The song is ‘Valentino‘ by Diane Birch.

This video is ingenious. It was shot in just one take and uses absolutely no digital trickery. To get a sense of just how complicated the video would have been to shoot, take a look at the equally entertaining behind the screen video which shows how precisely choreographed the whole thing was.

Diane BirchIn an interview with Spinner UK Birch revealed that she doesn’t consider herself to be a natural dancer. “When I saw the behind the scenes clip, I thought, ‘This all looks so easy. They won’t even realize how much work I put into this,'” Throughout the video the 27 year old singer songwriter makes several outfit changes. “It was one of those things where I kept telling myself, ‘Pretend that you’re having fun. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. Don’t let people know it’s the 15th hour you’ve been doing the same thing and it’s the 57th take.'”

The video is somewhat similar to the style of the viral videos produced by OK Go. Their innovative ‘treadmill video‘ on YouTube brought them notoriety, and their latest video, ‘This Too Shall Pass,’ is mind bogglingly wonderful. (If you haven’t seen those videos you should!)

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Diane Birch before I saw this video on a friends blog (thanks Bob!). I’ve now downloaded her debut album, ‘Bible Belt‘ and while it’s difficult to peg her style or make comparisons, I would say that she’s sounds loosely like Norah Jones meets Amos Lee; a funky foot-tapping mellow sound.

Anyway, I think this is a fun song for a Friday, or indeed any other day of the week. I hope you enjoy it (and the video) too.

[Video] Valentino – Diane Birch
[Video] Behind the screen of the Valentino video
[Video] Meet Diane Birch in the studio
Official website
Diane Birch youtube channel
Diane Birch: The ‘Bible Belt,’ In Eclectic Song from NPR.
Diane Birch live in concert from NPR station WXPN.
That song in your head

GeneralWednesday, April 7th, 2010, (5:02 pm)

It could be the plot of a bad 80’s comedy film, but over the Easter weekend two women were arrested at Liverpool Airport in the UK after it became apparent that a “sleeping” family member whom they were attempting to take to Germany, was in actual fact dead.

Staff at Liverpool Airport became suspicious that Curt Willi Jarant, who was strapped into a wheelchair and wearing dark glasses, had already checked-out before he had checked-in.

Family members traveling with the “sleeping” man were attempting to board a flight to Berlin and insisted the 91 year German national was merely tired after the taxi ride to the airport.

Airport employee, Andrew Millea, who aided the family upon their arrival, said Mr Jarant was already dead when he helped him out of the taxi. “I did my best to help by carefully lifting the man from his seat,” he said. “To my horror his face fell sideways against mine, it was ice cold.”

Millea told reporters “I knew straight away that the man was dead, but they reassured me that he ‘always sleeps like that.'”

According to reports, when officials established the man was indeed dead, one of the adult family members asked if they would still be able to board the flight.

Early medical reports suggest Mr Jarant died approximately 24 hours before the flight. However, his wife Gitta Jarant, and his step-daughter, Anke Anusic, are thought to have decided to press ahead with boarding the afternoon flight to the Berlin in order to avoid paying up to £5000 in repatriation fees.

Leah Gandy who was working on the easyJet check-in desk when the incident happened said: “I’ve worked at the airport for three years, but this is the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen . . . Fortunately, they had done a good job of disguising the truth and the other passengers did not appear to notice that the man was dead.”

The audacious attempt to fly Mr Jarant’s dead body, which echoed the 1980’s comedy film ‘Weekend at Bernie’s‘ was always doomed to fail due to standard airport security checks. But the family insist he was alive and well on the morning of the flight and that he must have died at the airport.

Police arrested Jarant’s wife and step-daughter on suspicion of failing to give notification of death.

Women ‘take dead relative to the airport to catch a flight’
Women arrested at airport over dead relative
[Sept 2010 Update] No charges to be brought in dead passenger case

Faith & Religion and GeneralSunday, April 4th, 2010, (8:05 pm)

The Easter Bunny rose from the dead today. Well okay, the easter bunny didn’t actually rise from the dead today, but on this day we remember his resurrection when he became the first and only bunny to hatch from an egg, right?

Holy Easter egg

Okay, so it turns out that the Easter Bunny was never actually crucified and chocolate eggs have very little connection to the religious reason behind this holiday weekend that marks the miraculous resurrection of Christ.

Nevertheless it strikes me that there is a significant amount of brand confusion between chocolate eggs and Jesus coming back to life. So with that in mind I had an idea that I thought might help the Christians get their man back into the public eye… Behold the chocolate Jesus!

Rather than pointless eggs and bunnies, Christian folk could give their friends a chocolate Jesus instead. Variations might include the Good Friday version where Christ is affixed to a candy crucifix, or the perhaps more palatable, but no less tasty, Christ without the cross.

Children and adults alike, who might not ordinarily give Jesus a second thought as they go about their Easter weekend activities, would now have pause to think about the risen Lord as they contemplate what part of his anatomy to bite off first.

Indeed, choclatising Jesus in the same way his followers Christianised the pagan festival of Eastre (the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe) is surely a fantastic way to put the subject of Jesus Christ back on centre stage of this increasingly secularised holiday weekend.

Yet when I suggested this idea to Christian friends of mine it was curiously met with looks of disdain and outright offense. “I can’t talk to you about Christ like this.” Said one of my friends before abruptly ending our conversation. Another told me the idea was “profoundly distasteful.”

But seriously, what’s the big deal? Why is the idea of a chocolate Jesus more offensive than a regular Jesus? How come it’s acceptable to cast a crucifix in gold but not in candy?

I guess I don’t really care. I like eating chocolate and I’m happy to relax over a four day weekend for any reason. But I do find it somewhat confusing as to why the idea of a chocolate Jesus is met with such utter derision by the very people who decry the removal of Christ from Christmas.

Now, if I really wanted to offend people, then I would have suggested something far worse. Just imagine the outcry when the crucified chocolate easter bunnies hit the store! Eat your heart out Glenn Close.

Hiding Easter eggs

The Pagan origins of Easter
Happy Eastre